HAWORTH – Strategies for Minimizing the Stress of Returning to Work(place)

Recognize That Employees Are Stressed
A year ago, the World Health Organization classified burnout as a syndrome related to chronic stress. Stress was already a problem. Fast forward to post-pandemic, and many employees will return to the workplace in a heightened state of stress.

Everyone has experienced loss in some form as a result of the pandemic. Loss of the security of going to a workplace, loss of control, and for many, loss of health and even loved ones. People will return to the workplace with concerns. They’ll be worried about how things will change. They may perceive changes in the workplace as more loss.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for employees, the workplace is a valuable resource. People naturally strive to get and protect valuable resources. Changes implemented to respond to COVID-19 may result in them feeling like they are losing resources instead of gaining them. They may feel that important things are being taken away from them—and this can lead to a sense of loss.

Soothe the Stress
As many of us have discovered while working from home the last few months, our minds and bodies don’t fare well under excessive stress. It’s simply not sustainable to jump into work first thing in the morning, constantly respond to emails, zoom from virtual meeting to virtual meeting, and wrap up the day nine or ten hours later. We need breaks and restorative time. We need to soothe the stress.

Now more than ever, leaders need to encourage behaviors that reduce stress. This means slowing down, taking measures to feel safe, and practicing kindness and care—which includes self-care too. A 20-minute walk can reset stress to a healthier level no matter where you work, remotely or in the workplace.

Look Beyond Official Guidelines
Guidelines from government agencies, local health departments, and trade associations provide best practices for minimizing employees’ exposure to the coronavirus. However, they don’t address emotional and psychological factors that affect people’s ability to focus, manage stress, communicate, and collaborate in new, physically distant ways.

Everyone responds differently to a crisis and the stress that can result. However, times of crisis can provide some of the most important opportunities to deepen trust and commitment with employees in ways that not only support greater well-being, but also position your organization for greater business success when the crisis is over.

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